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December 19, 2004 [LINK]

Christmas Bird Count

Bluebird I spent almost all of Saturday taking the annual bird census sponsored by the Audubon Society, known as the "CBC" for short. It was bitterly cold, but the skies were fairly clear, unlike last year, when we endured snow and sleet. My partner was Mark Adams, an astronomer with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, who authored a book on his birding experiences in Texas. Our territory was in the northern part of Augusta County, including parts of the Middle River valley and some uplands with fantastic views of the mountain ranges to the east and west. I heard or saw 36 species altogether (eight more than last year), including a remarkable 32 Eastern bluebirds, which have been somewhat scarce in these parts for the last year or so. The numbers of Turkey vultures, Red-tailed hawks, and Cardinals were also above average, whereas none of the expected Yellow-rumped warblers or Cedar waxwings were present, and only one pigeon was seen. Our bird tally is shown below. That evening, about a dozen participants belonging to the Augusta Bird Club shared their observations at a fine catered dinner.

  • 1 Great blue heron
  • 7 Black vultures
  • 85 Turkey vultures
  • 25 Canada geese
  • 2 Mallards
  • 2 Northern harriers
  • 1 Cooper's hawk *
  • 15 Red-tailed hawks
  • 5 American kestrels
  • 1 Rock dove (pigeon)
  • 10 Mourning doves
  • 1 Belted kingfisher **
  • 6 Red-bellied woodpeckers
  • 2 Yellow-bellied sapsuckers
  • 4 Downy woodpeckers
  • 5 Northern flickers
  • 1 Eastern phoebe *
  • 19 Blue jays
  • 53 American crows
  • 2 Fish crows (HO)
  • 22 Carolina chickadees
  • 18 Tufted titmice
  • 12 White-breasted nuthatches
  • 14 Carolina wrens
  • 5 Golden-crowned kinglets
  • 32 Eastern bluebirds
  • 1 Robin (HO)
  • 13 Northern mockingbirds
  • 17 Song sparrows
  • 2 Swamp sparrows
  • 17 White-throated sparrows
  • 8 White-crowned sparrows
  • 44 Dark-eyed juncos
  • 53 Northern cardinals
  • 9 House finches
  • 11 American goldfinches
  • 231 European starlings
  • 10 House sparrows
  • * : seen by Mark Adams, but not me.
    ** : seen by me, but not Mark Adams.
    HO : heard only

December 19, 2004 [LINK]

Pale Male un-evicted

Good news: the owners of the Manhattan condo building where the Red-tailed hawks have been nesting for the past 15 years have relented under heavy public pressure, agreeing to reinstall the anti-pigeon spikes that had provided a support for the nest. Some people in the building thought the nest was either unsanitary or hazardous, among whom were (reportedly) CBS Newswoman Paula Zahn or her husband. Another resident, Mary Tyler Moore, spoke out in favor of preserving the hawks' nest. The New York City Audubon chapter had been holding daily vigils for Pale Male and Lola (his current mate), but has halted them while arrangments are made to provide for new and safer support on top of the window arch. See www.palemale.com and www.savepalemale.com. When Jacqueline and I were strolling through Central Park in July, we were looking for one of those hawks, but didn't see any. It turns out we were within a stone's throw of that building, located at Fifth Avenue and 74th Street.

December 19, 2004 [LINK]

Climate shift may harm birds

Bad news: According to a "technical review" just published by the Wildlife Society (cited in the Washington Post), global climate changes have apparently put birds under great stress, forcing many species to accelerate their annual migration, and causing serious population declines in others. As for the birds that most interest me, the study noted,

Thus, in terms of mobility, Neotropical migrants appear pre-adapted to shifting range distributions as climates change. ... But rather than being able to focus on conserving relatively small areas, habitat ranging from breeding areas in the United States and Canada all the way south along migration routes to wintering areas in Mexico, Central America, and portions of South America must be conserved.

What lessons are we to draw? First, it is becoming increasingly clear that many of the biggest environmental problems cannot be addressed by individual countries. This suggests that countries must learn to cooperate on matters of joint concern even when there are deep disagreements over foreign policy. It is also important to avoid hasty, ill-considered action, however. As U.Va. professor Patrick Michaels and others have argued (see www.skepticism.net), the evidence on global warming is mixed, some of the science is deeply flawed, and the CO2 "greenhouse effect" may be less significant than fluctuations in the sun's temperature over the decades and centuries. That doesn't mean we should get complacent, it just means we need to keep various potential threats in perspective.

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 27 Dec 2004, 2: 15 PM

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Blog highlights have been compiled for the years 2010-2012 thus far, and eventually will be compiled for earlier years, back to 2002.


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The "home made" blog organization system that I created was instituted on November 1, 2004, followed by several functional enhancements in subsequent years. I make no more than one blog post per day on any one category, so some posts may cover multiple news items or issues. Blog posts appear in the following (reverse alphabetical) order, which may differ from the chronological order in which the posts were originally made:

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